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character, and was considered an ignoble Hawk. The MERLIN and HOBBY (Falco æsalon and Falco subbuteo) are true Falcons, and though but small birds, possess great courage and are of rapid flight. The Merlin was considered a very excellent bird for hawking, and was much used to fly at partridges and other small birds. It is easily tamed and exceedingly docile. An amusing anecdote is told by Mr. Knox of a wild Merlin who was his daily companion while snipe-shooting in Ireland, following him from one marsh to another, and always watching for a wounded bird to which he could give chase; he never meddled with a bird that fell dead to the ground, but appeared to consider all the disabled birds his lawful prey. After a while he was joined by his mate, and both birds continued to attend Mr. Knox on his shooting expeditions. The first report of his gun was sufficient to bring them to him; and as soon as a snipe was wounded one would rise above it in a succession of circular gyrations, and swoop upon it, and if he missed the other would pursue the quarry, which had no chance of escaping both of his foes, and was sure to be seized by one of them, while the other would be close at hand to “bind to it.” These birds continued to follow the sport for more than two months, and constituted themselves Mr. Knox's companions during the whole of the time he was snipe-shooting in the neighbourhood. The Merlin seems to have no fears about the size of its prey, and can be taught to fly at partridges, grouse, and magpies. It is a good pigeon-hunter, and most persevering in its chase of thrushes, larks, and similar small birds, which it will follow through branches and leaves if they seek refuge in such coverts.
The Hobby is sometimes called the Miniature Peregrine Falcon; but it prefers wooded situations to the coasts and barren rocks in which the latter delights. It was generally used to fly at larks, quails, and snipes, and sometimes taken by bird-catchers to assist them in catching skylarks, but its predilection for insects will sometimes cause it, even when trained, to turn aside from its quarry after a beetle or cockchafer. In captivity it should be fed on small birds, or on very fresh beef cut into small pieces. It is easily tamed and gentle in temper, though so daring in pursuit of its game, that it has been known to dash through the open window of a room at a bird confined in a cage in it.
Though larger than the Ger-Falcon, the GOSHAWK (Astur palumbarius) is not nearly so powerful or swiftwinged, and is used more for hares and rabbits than for winged game. It steals upon its prey instead of dashing boldly at it, and will not follow it into covert as the Peregrine and Merlin do, but waits for its coming out. It has a fierce temper, and is less to be trusted at liberty than other Falcons, whom it would attack and kill if it escaped from its jesses.
The little SPARROW HAWK (Accipiter Nisus) is a very bold audacious little fellow, and will fly at any bird, whatever its size may be, in the most reckless manner. It is of a quarrelsome disposition, and if put with others of its kind in a cage, or fastened on the same perch, they will be sure to fight, and probably the conqueror will eat the victim. This was the case with a pair of Sparrow Hawks which were put into a cage together: the female killed and devoured her intended mate. It is very difficult bird to train and tame, and even when this seems to be accomplished, it is subject to fits of fright or passion, which for the time completely paralyse it. Yet Bishop Stanley tells of one brought up by a person who was fond of rearing a particular breed of Pigeons, who succeeded in bringing about a friendship between the Sparrow Hawk and the Pigeons. He flew about with them, and roosted at night in their dove-cote, and showed none of his natural ferocity even at feeding-time, never being known to touch any of the young Pigeons. He was quite unhappy when separated from them, and uttered cries of joy whenever he saw. any person with whom he was familiar, being “as playful as a kitten, and as loving as a dove."
The Sparrow Hawk is often mobbed by a number of small birds: it appears to be bewildered and frightened by its assailants, but will frequently turn suddenly and seize one of them, and make off with its victim.
The KESTREL (Tinnunculus Alaudarius) will often do the same when mobbed by swallows, who are very fond of surrounding it; but on one occasion when a sparrow had been caught by a Kestrel, its cries brought a number of swallows to its rescue, and they attacked the Hawk with so much fury that they compelled him to release his victim. This bird is supposed to prefer a mouse diet to any other, but I fear it cannot be acquitted of stealing young chickens or any other small game that may come in its way, and its name would seem to signify a propensity to lark-eating. Still it does devour a great quantity of mice, and is most useful to the farmer on that account. It also eats reptiles, frogs and moles, and insects, and may be seen chasing beetles and cockchafers quite late at night, catching them in its claws, and devouring them while on the wing. It will also destroy worms, caterpillars, and other larvæ. When in the air its wings are continually shivering, and its common name of Windhover has been acquired from this habit of hovering with its face towards the wind.
A writer in “Science Gossip” says he once possessed a very large and beautiful Kestrel hen, which soon became so docile and affectionate that she would come when whistled to, and perching upon his hand, took great delight in being fondled, and rubbed her head against the hand that caressed her. The secondary and tertiary feathers of one wing being clipped, she was allowed the run of a large walled garden, and she kept her feathers and feet delicately clean. She was always shut in a small tool-house at the end of a hothouse at night, and here the poor bird fell a victim to a large rat, which probably stole upon her while she was asleep, or she would have beaten him off. If secured against such enemies, the partial liberty allowed to this bird would keep it and its compeers in a much more healthful and happy condition than the close confinement of a cage, in which birds of prey look miserable. Care must be taken in September and October, however, not to let the tame Kestrels be loose all day, lest they should be enticed away by their wild companions, as it is believed that they migrate at that season of the year. Immense flights of Hawks are seen to pass periodically over the Mediterranean towards Africa then.
KITES or GLEADS, so called from their gliding flight (Milvus vulgaris), when taken from the nest, may be easily tamed and rendered very engaging and docile. A pair taken in Argyleshire were allowed a flight every morning: they never flew far, but soared to a great height in the air, always returning to the lure or the hand when called. They preferred mice to birds or any other food. When on the wing, they would catch rats let out of a cage-trap in the most expert manner.
Owls must be classed amongst the rapacious birds, and much as they are disliked by all the Hawk tribe, there are many points of resemblance between them. Their beaks and claws are much of the same make, and their eyes are as bright, though much larger and fuller. There are Eagle nd wk Owls, so called for their resemblance to these birds, who fly by day as well as night, and are equally destructive to game. The night-flying Owls are wonderfully clear-sighted and acute of hearing, and their wings are provided with feathers so soft and pliant as to make no noise in striking the air, so that they can fly quietly along in the silence of night. They feed chiefly on mice, and small reptiles, and insects, and are very useful birds on account of their wholesale destruction of vermin. They are accused of robbing pigeon-houses and dove-cotes, and no doubt they will carry off pigeons and other small birds, if they can find no other food; but Mr. Waterton and other close observers of Owls assert that they often frequent pigeon-houses to pick up the vermin harboured there, and that they have been shot with the rats in their claws, which they have pounced upon when about to prey upon the young pigeons. Owls are expert fishermen, and will drop into the water upon the fish which come to the surface. Some people have conjectured that the eyes of the Owl, like those of the cat, glare
the dark, and attract the fish within their reach by this luminous appearance. They appear to be very like cats in some particulars, and I have read of a young LONG-EARED OWL (Otus vulgaris) which struck up a great friendship with a cat and her kitten, only interrupted in the case of the latter by her habit of playing with a live mouse, which always excited the Owl's indignation, and he would pounce down and kill it, and then give it back to the kitten.
The WHITE or BARN OWL (Strix flammea) is easily tamed when taken young, and is a very amusing pet, capable of great attachment to its owner, but of great dislike to strangers, and very spiteful and mischievous if it takes up any antipathy. I have heard of one Owl who had a great liking for a tame skylark, and would allow it to perch upon its back and nestle among its soft plumage, but it would kill any other bird that came within its reach.
Another Owl belonged to one of the Canons of Winchester Cathedral, and had the range of a very pretty